Bring Your Own Device Doesn't Mean Bring in Security Breach

by Foley & Lardner LLP
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Bring-Your-Own-Device (“BYOD”) policies have been picking up steam because of increased productivity, improved communications, and the need for employees to work remotely. However, when implementing any BYOD policy there are many pitfalls that accompany these benefits. In some cases, corporations, including manufacturers, overlook risks associated with their current (or lack of) BYOD policies. Here are a few best practices that can minimize some of the risks associated with BYOD policies.

  1. Management Must Understand the Company’s BYOD structure. It is all too easy for a company to reap the financial benefits which come from telling employees “Sure, you can use your own device at work!” as a way to reduce the company’s expenditures on hardware and software. However, such a decision cannot be taken lightly. Management should solicit input from each functional area of the business to assess the full impact of implementation. It should be obvious that the IT department plays an integral role in implementation but each level of management, including supervisors, must also be involved.
  2. BYOD Policies, Guidelines, and Compliance Should Be Mandatory. Clear written policies and guidelines should be distributed. Counsel should review the policies before finalizing and distributing the documents. More importantly, effective implementation must be more than handing out a new written policy and must involve face-to-face training and communications where employees can ask questions. Ideally, like employment agreements, BYOD policies should be signed by each employee.
  3. BYOD Policies Should Address Devices’ Many Functions. Consider which uses of GPS receivers, cameras, audio recorders, video recorders, mobile storage capacities, and any other tracking/data capturing functionalities should be permitted or prohibited. For example, consider disabling copying from a local drive to a usb/miniusb port connected to a mobile device so as to avoid either the intentional or inadvertent loss of the manufacturer’s data. Also consider prohibiting the taking of photographs inside your manufacturing plant as a way to protect your technology.
  4. Prepare and Incorporate Data Loss Strategies. Despite the best laid plans, data loss WILL occur, so you should plan for it in advance. The need to protect information cannot be overstated. Getting employees to promptly tell you they have lost their device is the first practical hurdle to overcome. Thus, while developing BYOD policies, companies should create plans to address lost or stolen devices.
  5. Executives Must Be Included. Top-level personnel access the most sensitive information and operate with less supervision than others. So BYOD policies must include provisions to ensure even the most senior individuals adhere to the policies. After all, these are the folks that “hold the keys to the company safe.
  6. Security Principles to Consider. When drafting or updating your BYOD policy, include provisions incorporating security best practices. For example, passwords should be changed every 60–90 days and should not be associated with social media profiles. Also, business data transferred to and from devices should occur via highly secure connections.

As technology continues to evolve, so must your policies. As technology becomes more integrated, your employees may insist on incorporating devices into their work lives. No BYOD policy is one-size-fits-all, but following these best practices will help create a foundation to mitigate the substantial risks associated with devices becoming ubiquitous business tools.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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